Installing the proper type of covering on your basement stairs creates a safe walking surface to prevent slips. The material you select should also hold up well to foot traffic. If the basement is finished, the flooring and style of the area at the bottom of the stairs helps make the decision.
Carpeting is a floor covering that works well for stairs leading down to a finished basement, particularly if the room below is carpeted. For continuity, use the same carpet for the stairs as the rest of the room. Carpeting gives the stairs a soft feeling and makes the area feel more like a main level living area. The grip you get when walking on carpet reduces the risk of slipping on the stairs, making it a safe covering option.
If you don't want to fully carpet the stairs, a runner is an alternative. The strip of carpet runs down the middle of the staircase to improve the look of a set of plain wood stairs. You'll need a solid set of stairs that has wood along the rise of each step. A staircase with open space at the back of each step doesn't give you the surface to attach the runner in place. Since the stairs show along the edge of the runner, the stairs should be made from a wood that looks nice on its own.
Paint or Stain
An inexpensive and simple option for finishing stairs is to paint or stain them. Stained stairs allow the wood grain to show through so consider the look of the wood before choosing this option. Paint covers completely so the wood doesn't need to look great on its own. This option looks less finished than actual flooring but works well for an unfinished basement area.
Vinyl flooring offers a basement stair covering that is easy to clean. If you use the basement mainly for storage or as a work space, the vinyl provides a functional covering that isn't ruined by dirt or dust you may track onto the space. The vinyl flooring holds up well against moisture and mold, which sometimes occur in the basement area of a home. Vinyl is relatively durable but sometimes tends to peel. You'll find a variety of colors and patterns on vinyl flooring, giving you many options for the basement.